The annual Johnson County wrestling tournament ended in controversy on Saturday.
Franklin picked up the 18th title in coach Bob Hasseman’s career, defeating Center Grove, 40-30, in a meeting of the event’s only 3-0 teams in round-robin competition.
The Grizzly Cubs, leading by three points going entering the final match (145 pounds) at Indian Creek, cemented champion status when undefeated Center Grove junior Peyton Pruett was disqualified for what officials said was a punch in the head to Franklin freshman Noah McCann.
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This happened immediately after McCann was penalized a point for unnecessary roughness because of a head-butt.
Pruett led the match, 14-0, at the time.
Trojans coach Cale Hoover, whose program appeared on the verge of picking up the team trophy for a second straight year, was initially angered by the way the event ended, but hopes lessons eventually come from it.
“We are obviously disappointed on how things ended,” Hoover said. “We can’t change what happened, but we will all learn and be stronger from the situation.
“We had other opportunities to put the meet away and were unable to do it, so we have to continue to work hard and improve every day.”
Hasseman, in his 33rd season as Franklin’s coach, figured he had witnessed about everything in his career. However, to see a close match between rivals end in such a manner proved new even to him.
“That’s what happens if your kids don’t control themselves in a match,” Hasseman said. “I’ve lost that way. A kid has lost his head and he retaliates. The guy who retaliates is always caught. Every time. Football games, everything.
“You can’t punch a guy. We kind of head-butted (Pruett), which is unsportsmanlike conduct, but that’s not flagrant. When you retaliate and you get in a fight, then it becomes flagrant. It’s bad for me, it’s really bad for Hoover, but it’s a learning experience.”
Franklin senior Manny Cheam, who competes in the 285 class despite weighing roughly 50 pounds less than that, won his class. He is one of two Cubs to pick up individual titles, the other being freshman 106-pounder Jake Bechert.
The majority of wrestlers starting for Hasseman are underclassmen.
“Obviously, practices are tough, but it’s good to see a young team like us see some success,” Cheam said.
Center Grove junior Alex Petro was named as the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler after dominating the 113-pound class. He was one of three Trojans to claim individual honors with seniors Gleason Mappes (160) and Jonah Hays (170).
Indian Creek went 2-2 as a team, losing to Franklin and Center Grove by a combined 17 points. However, the Braves led with way with four individual winners in Trent Watkins (113), Owen Sego (132), Brad Trietsch (138) and Grant Goforth (195).
Coach Pat Dowty’s squad outscored the opposition by a combined 159-130.
“Our biggest problem was some of our younger guys or newer guys giving up falls,” Dowty said. “We worked a lot this past week on not getting pinned because if we don’t give up the pins, we give ourselves a chance.
“All in all, we came out and followed the game plan other than we gave up those falls. They learned. We’re going into team state next weekend, and I’m pretty excited about it. I think we’ve got a chance to do some things.”